Do you ever wrestle with God?
When God takes you down a path you don’t like or when your face fears that seem like they will consume you, have you ever cried out to God and wrestled with him and asked him to take it away? Have you ever fought God on an issue of the heart when deep down you realize true surrender is the only way? I always get upset at myself for showing such weak faith in God during these times. Surely doubting and not trusting God is not a good sign for my faith. But what if God actually delights in seeing us wrestle? What if our wrestling heart is actually a sign that we truly are among God’s chosen? What if wrestling constantly is actually the only way to a fully surrendered heart for God?
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the life of Jacob and especially about the story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles God. If you have been following along with my journey through Genesis, this is the next big story that I am finding so much encouragement from. During my bible study we spent a lot of time discussing this story. I am just amazed and in aw at what took place in Jacobs life. Jacob physically wrestled God! If you aren’t familiar with the story here it is from Genesis;
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30)
It is believed that this ‘man’ who wrestled Jacob was possible a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Some think that maybe it was an angle of God. But we know that it was no ordinary man that wrestled Jacob that night. I wonder, what was it like? Did this ‘man’ approach Jacob slowly and come out of the shadows, or did he attack Jacob head on with much vigor? What must Jacob have been thinking? Jacob was scared. In the verses before this passage, Jacob is afraid for his life because his brother Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob said the most honest prayer asking God to save him and now he is all alone, waiting.
I can relate to Jacob in this place. He is alone, he is scared of the future, he is at a point in his life where all he can do is wait. Waiting to see if God hears and how God will answer. This is probably one of the hardest places to be. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how hard it is being in a place where you don’t know what God is going to do. Whether God does one thing or another thing in my life, my heart would have so much more peace if I could just know what is going to happen. But no, God hasn’t let me in on what he’s doing, and Jacob didn’t know either how God was going to answer him.
But it was in that waiting time, while he was alone, that God came and met Jacob. The ‘man’ came and wrestled with Jacob till morning. The part about this story that intrigues me the most is that Jacob was actually able to have some sort of advantage in the fight. They kept fighting and fighting and neither one would relent. Even when the ‘man’ touched Jacob’s hip and put it out by just one touch. Jacob had to know then that this man he was wrestling was God, and yet, Jacob still fought. Jacob refused to stop until the man blessed him.
Let’s take a break and look at this idea of wrestling for a little bit. Jacob physically wrestled with God, but I think that in our christian life, we often partake in a similar type of wrestling. We wrestle spiritually with God. When we don’t know what God is doing or when God takes us somewhere that is hard and hurts, don’t we often cry out to him and tell him no. We tell God we don’t want to go down this path, but we also want Him, so we wrestle. We wrestle with our desires for the good things of this world and a desire to want God above all these things. If you take a look at the psalms there are countless times that the psalmist cries out to God in agony. Yet the psalmist always goes back to praising and trusting God.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:1-5)
This makes me think that God must like this wrestling we do with Him. That when we come to God with our questions and we wrestle inwardly with our conflict of desires, God looks on us and smiles. God is there with us as we wrestle. He wants us to choose Him. He is delighting in the fact that we are wrestling so much about following Him. I wonder how many people God has watched walk away from Him the moment hard seasons come, without even putting up a fight. Fighting is proof that you have something in you greater than them. You wrestle because God has got a hold of your heart, and even though it’s hard and you want to run, there’s something in you that says no, stay, wait. You know that you want God more.
As I was thinking more about this idea of wrestling with God, I thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Easter is coming up in a few weeks so this story may be fresh in your minds. But on the night of Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus knew the pain and agony he was about to walk through. He wrestled with God in the garden. He wrestled so hard His sweat was like drops of blood. He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. And yet Jesus also said, “not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was perfect, sinless, but also human. He wrestled with God, he didn’t want to go through all the pain, but Jesus was also fully surrendered to God as he wrestled. This is the perfect example of godly wrestling with God. It is fully surrendered to God and it always ends with a “not my will, but yours be done.”
Is your wrestling with God fully surrendered? When you take your questions and hurts to God, do you end by saying “your will be done”? I don’t know about you, but I find so much comfort in knowing that it’s okay for my heart to wrestle with God. It’s okay to go to God and tell him my heart, tell him how much I hurt, tell him I want out. I know God hears me. But I also tell God, I want Him more, I want to follow him and I trust that whatever his will is for me, it’ll be good.
Okay, this post is getting long. But there’s one last thing I want to share from this story. So back to the story of Jacob. In the end, when morning finally comes, Jacob refuses to let the ‘man’ go until he blesses him. Jacob knows this man has the power to bless him so he clings onto him and asks for a blessing. And he did get a blessing.
Did you know that God is waiting to bless you too. The Bible is full of blessing and promises that apply to us. During the time of waiting when Jacob was scared, he held tightly onto the blessing of God. When we are in these seasons of waiting and wrestling with God, God’s blessings are all within our reach. They are truths that we can hold onto and rest in. If you are worried about the future God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are dealing with a broken heart God promises to be near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). If you don’t see any good in the path your on you can know that God is working all things our for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, as you’re wrestling, reach out, find a blessing, and hold onto it. Let the truth of that blessing carry you through and give you hope.
As you go through this Christian walk, remember that a wrestling heart is a beautiful thing to God. God loves it when we take our deepest worries and concerns to Him. We wrestle, yet we remain fully surrender to God. As we wrestle, we find rest in knowing that God’s ways truly are best and his promises to us are good. I pray that as your wrestle, you will find promises to hold onto. Jacob had no idea that the next day Esau was going to welcome him, not attack him. You are on the verge of God’s blessing and I know it’s hard. I’m in the dark too during this season in my life. But keep wrestling, and keep choosing God, and God will bring you safely through the night into a new day full of his blessing, just like he did with Jacob.